99 miles to El Morro
On Wednesday, May 9th, we woke early from our roadside camp just about 10 miles south of St. Johns, AZ. It was a chilly morning to be riding and the landscape was stark. We rode non-stop into downtown St. Johns looking for whatever it had to offer. The entire downtown was either vacant, for sale or completely deserted. The heart of the town seemed to be a pair of gas/convenience stores directly across the street from one another.Odd, this town isn’t even a hundred years old and it looks like it just barely hanging on for its life. We bought coffee and sat on some church steps and ate our breakfast. We watched as a group of high school honor students dressed in all types of costumes came by on an early morning festive harassment march through town. We thought we were getting our usual amount of looks but they stole the show that morning. No one seemed to notice us.
Our last hours in Arizona were filled with open range and long roads. We had one more landmark to look forward to, a junction called Witch Well. This would be where we turn and cross into New Mexico, clip a corner of the Navajo reservation and then begin our ride across the Zuni Indian Nation.
Good bye Arizona! It has been a glorious few months and we have been awed and astounded every day. See you manana! We quietly crossed into Mew Mexico. A few horses, cattle and sheep dotted the landscape. Our route was low on traffic except for a convoy of amusement park trucks heading east. As we rolled into Zuni Pueblo we turned right onto Pia Mesa St. and headed into the heart of the pueblo to re-supply at Halona Plaza the the only supermarket in town. All the people we chatted with were very nice. The store had everything – well worth the stop. By this time it was 3:30pm and we were not sure how much farther we going to ride. After loading up on groceries the weight was back on our bikes but now we had yummy vittles to carry us forward for the next few days. We dodged rain all afternoon and we’re lucky to not get wet as the isolated storms were dumping all around us.
We stopped occasionally for snack breaks and sanity checks. We kept on riding east on NM 53 and the traffic disappeared. We rode into and through the small village of Ramah. Not a whole lot going on here but there was a small cafe and Post Office. Leaving Ramah we crossed a a satellite section of the Navajo reservation that was riddled with packs of barking, chasing dogs. For the most part they stayed out of the road and Debi would yell at them to keep them at bay. As the afternoon turned into early evening the sun was slowly setting and the light seemed eternal. As the sun set we decided to ride on to El Morro National Monument to either stay at their campground or the El Morro RV park. We weren’t sure. The campground at the monument was on our map and could be seen with satellite view on google maps but there was no information about it on the website. When, after dark we came upon the entrance to the monument we decided to try it first before riding another mile onto the RV park. The campground was open and was only $5 a night, had water but no showers and wasn’t the least bit crowded. Perfect. It was 99 miles to get here and were looking forward to a day off! We stayed up late and celebrated with salmon and rice.
Thursday, May 10th, we woke to a sunny morning with birds all around singing to our delight. We had a leisurely morning and then locked our bikes to a tree and walked off to the visitor center to see what was shaking and to do a little hiking. Hiking always feels good after riding a bunch of miles because it uses different muscles and slows us down. The trail system at El Morro is not large, maybe 2.5 miles total but it is definitely not to be missed. We walked out the back door of the visitor center and headed toward inscription rock and an ancient pool of water that drains from the box canyon above. El Morro was a crucial water hole for travelers for the past few hundred years. While they lingered, many signed their names into the rock. Before travelers came through Ancestral Puebloans lived on top of El Morro.
The staff at the visitor center were exceptional. Thanks especially to George who gave us great advice and made a call for us for the riding conditions we would see in El Malpais. That night we had a camp fire and cooked some sausages over it.
Next, we ride through El Malpais on the Chain of Craters Back Country Byway on our way to Albuquerque. Stay tuned and thanks for following along.
Bryan and Debi
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Tags: Arizona, New Mexico